Commentary

New Legal Woes For LimeWire

The peer-to-peer network LimeWire, recently found liable for inducing copyright infringement, says it wants to develop a new music service that will "compensate the entire industry."

First, however, LimeWire has some legal business to clear up. The company -- already facing a request for an injunction that could shutter it -- was hit this week with a new copyright lawsuit by a coalition of eight music publishers.

The publishers' complaint draws heavily on the decision issued in May by U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood in New York, who found against the site in a lawsuit brought by the Recording Industry Association of America. Wood specifically ruled that LimeWire deliberately fostered infringement by aiming to attract users who downloaded music. She also found that the company depended on infringement "for the success of its business."

The publishers -- including EMI, Sony/ATV, Universal Music and Warner/Chappell -- now argue that LimeWire also is liable to them for damages of up to $150,000 per infringement.

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Given Wood's recent decision, the publishers seem to have a strong case -- but not a guaranteed win. LimeWire has already asked Wood to reconsider her ruling. If she refuses, the company can appeal -- a process that could tie up the case for years.

Meantime, LimeWire -- which already runs a small legal music store -- obviously wants to forge some sort of deal with the industry. "We definitely want publishers at the table," LimeWire says in a statement. "We have had many promising meetings with labels, publishers, songwriters and artists alike about our new music service."

Will the publishers agree? It's unclear, but their lawsuit includes one passage that indicates they might be willing to forge a deal. "Although still a haven for piracy," the complaint alleges, "the Internet now features a substantial number of legitimate avenues for the sale and digital distribution of music."

The complaint then names Napster -- now a legitimate site owned by Best Buy, but originally the poster-child for copyright infringement -- as among those legitimate companies.

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